The Human Heart (and Brain)

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. For those of you who didn’t know, St. Valentine is the patron Saint of love and he is also the patron Saint of epileptics. I actually think those two things go really well together.

When I was a teenager, I was told by a doctor that it would be very unlikely for me to ever be in an adult relationship because of my medical condition. Somehow, epilepsy would stop me from being able to date? In retrospect, I am not really sure specifically what he meant. Did he mean no one would be emotionally attracted to me because I have epilepsy? Did he mean that I may not be able to have kids and therefore no one would want to date me, as a person without reproductive capabilities? Did he mean that there would be so much more I would be worrying about (i.e. epilepsy) that I wouldn’t want to bother dating? If someone found out I have epilepsy, would they no longer be physically or emotionally interested in me anymore? I wish I could ask, but at the same time, I don’t really want or need to know the answer.

I don’t actually spend any time worrying about it with one exception: I absolutely hate that a medical professional would tell someone newly diagnosed just to not bother having any hope about a relationship or romantic love. Mind you, it’s not just medical professionals either who link my medical condition with the degree of attraction I may or may not potentially possess.

Here’s my point: I am in my late-thirties now. I’ve been epileptic for over two decades. I have been in a number of relationships. I know the feelings, physically and emotionally, that follow a seizure. The reason that those relationships existed was because those individuals were compassionate, strong and were willing to accept something that they didn’t understand (and they ended for different, unrelated reasons).

This is part of what being in an adult relationship is. It’s carrying about someone else’s needs, even when you don’t fully understand them. Yes, I typed “carrying about” rather than “caring about”. Because we can all care about lots of things, but wanting to carry the weight of someone else’s experiences is different and individual. I have a circumstance that is not just about caring, it also requires carrying. That’s hard to hear, that’s hard to accept, but it is not impossible. There have been people who couldn’t or chose not to be with me because of my epilepsy. Those are not people I want to be with.

Love is hard. Love is really hard right now. It’s hard to be with someone and not go out or have time alone. It’s hard to be alone because the pandemic restrictions make it impossible to meet in person or go out together. It’s hard to care and carry with someone else when there is so much that we are all dealing with on our own. That in no way means that love is gone. That does not mean that love can never be found. It doesn’t matter if you find love with another person or within yourself.

Almost 5 years ago, I met someone who became a close (albeit long-distance) friend. Over time, that changed. He’s here now, part of my heart and part of my life. He carries my condition and at the same time, I carry his because he also happens to have epilepsy. Epilepsy is literally what brought us together in the first place as we met at a conference for epilepsy awareness. We have had very different lives and different experiences with it. We have also had very different lives and different experiences in EVERY other way. It’s certainly not what binds our relationship and the differences mean that there are still things we cannot understand about the condition and our lives. Still, we are both driven and vastly value our independence; we can appreciate the need to be seen as more than people with epilepsy. It’s also great because he loves cooking food and I love eating food.

In this circumstance, I definitely think St. Valentine was looking out for us.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day, whether that means with someone or alone with a box of chocolates and a glass of wine.

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